The Royals are rumored to be discussing a contract extension with first baseman Eric Hosmer. However, Hosmer insists a deal get done before the season begins or else he will try free agency.
Hosmer told Rosenthal on Sunday:
"“I don’t know if it’s going to heat up now in spring training,” Hosmer said. “But during the season, I don’t like being bothered with that stuff. If something doesn’t happen here, I don’t see anything during the season really happening.”"
Moore commented in the same piece:
"“We as an organization have a strong desire to extend Eric,” Moore said. “We’re confident in his desire to be here in Kansas City. As with him and all our players, we’ll work as hard as we can to execute a deal.”"
The blunt truth is that Eric Hosmer had what many analysts consider a poor season in 2016 despite hitting a career high 25 home runs and 104 RBI’s. Overall, he slashed a mere .266/.328/.433 after a torrid start. Sabermetric defensive systems almost universally ranked him below average at first base, despite winning three gold gloves from 2013-15. Overall, Baseball-reference considered him 1.0 bWAR (Wins Above Replacement) player, which is about half the production of an average major league starter.
CBSports.com listed him as the most overrated first baseman in baseball.
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Whether the KC Royals buy into such evaluations doesn’t really matter. That many analytics staffs around the league will come to similar conclusions depresses Hosmer’s perceived market value. Thus, Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore just might have an opportunity to extend the 27-year-old Hosmer for a reasonable price.
However, Eric Hosmer’s agent Scott Boras didn’t make his reputation by letting general managers take advantage of him at the negotiating table. He told Rosenthal:
"“We all know that Hos is a franchise player, a world champion. He’s done all this at a very young age,” Boras said. “And I don’t know how many people have told me that if a guy hits 25 home runs in Kansas City, he’s going to hit 35 somewhere else."
I initially considered Boras’ statement little more than greed-induced hyperbole. But a quick look at Hosmer’s home spray chart shows 11 balls hit to the warning track. At least Boras has SOME data to back up the above assertion.
Hosmer could also improve on his 2016 home run total without changing his home park. Hosmer hit ground balls a ludicrous 58.9% of the time. His ground ball rate zoomed an astounding 6.9% in 2016 from an already high 52.0% the previous year. Major-league average typically sits around 45%. If Hosmer can elevate the ball in 2017, he can significantly increase his home-run production.
Combined with his strong average exit velocity of 93.7 mph (18th highest in MLB), Hosmer still retains substantial upside. Given that he’s just entering his age 27 season, Hosmer’s prime years could still lie ahead of him.
Dayton Moore has the chance to lock in a screaming bargain with a Hosmer extension. But, a number of things would have to fall just right for a deal to actually happen in the next five weeks.